Alumnus Finds His Niche in Startup Companies
Darren Austin (‘95) graduated from Georgia Southern University with every intention of making his mark in the field of mechanical engineering. With the help of the University’s Office of
Career Services, he found a job as an Engineer-in-Training at HESM & Associates, an architectural engineering firm in Atlanta. “I enjoyed the work and was exposed to a number of industries that I had previously not known much about,” said Austin.
During the course of his first job at HESM&A, the Georgia Southern graduate grew increasingly intrigued by the possibilities of the Internet. “For as long as I can remember, I have been fascinated by computers and the Internet,” he noted. “When I was as young as 11 years old, my mom enrolled me in computer programming classes at the community college in Dalton, Ga., our hometown.” Two years after joining the engineering firm, Austin made a “conscious decision to shift to a career focused on the Internet and mobile technology.”
The new path Austin carved for himself took him to positions at several Internet-based startups, and such well-known companies as Expedia, Motorola, AOL and Amazon.com, where his team created the original technology to extend the online retailer’s shopping experience to millions of mobile phones and connected devices in countries around the world.
Today, he lives in Seattle and is Vice President of Products for the mobile startup Glympse. The Glympse app for smartphones lets users quickly and safely share their location visually with others in real-time. To describe what Glympse does, Austin explained, “Think about how often you send a text message or make a phone call to say, ‘I’m on my way’ or ‘I’m stuck in traffic’. Glympse eliminates the need for all those messages. The app allows recipients to view a dynamic map that shows the sender’s location updated in real-time, but only for as long as the sender chooses.” A key benefit to using Glympse is that it helps reduce the pressure for drivers to text or make phone calls while driving – an increasing safety concern in today’s highly connected world. Owners of Android, Blackberry, iPhone and Windows mobile devices can use the free app, and Glympse has collaborated with Mercedes-Benz, Ford, BMW, Garmin and others to make it available for in-car location sharing.
The mechanical engineering alumnus considers this job an ideal fit for his talents. “My Georgia Southern education enabled me to become a technical generalist. That skill is becoming more and more important in today’s economy and especially important in a startup environment. After experience at both large companies and smaller startups, I have learned that I am happiest and most energized when working at a startup company,” he said. “There’s something special about the energy of a small, talented team dedicated to changing the world with a great new product or service. You could say that I’m addicted to that energy.”
He has also adapted to life in the Pacific Northwest where he lives with his wife, alumnae Mardee Coyle Austin (‘97) and their four-year-old Boston terrier, Maggie. “Georgia Southern was a great experience,” he said. “In addition to preparing me for a professional career, I made lifetime friendships, learned a lot about myself and had a heck of a lot of fun in the process. Summer semester was my favorite time of year. I was usually out of class by 11 a.m. and if I wasn’t working that day, I’d be playing beach volleyball by noon and relaxing with friends at Buffalo’s or Blind Willie’s by 5 p.m.” — Sandra Bennett
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